We cannot buy fresh broccoli and cabbage, but we can buy turnips and collards.
We are fortunate that we have such a long growing season in southeastern North Carolina and that a lot of different kinds of fruits and vegetables can be grown in this area. We are also fortunate that we have several public and private farmers markets available where we can purchase fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables.
I am sure many of you read the news this past spring about Michelle Obama developing a home vegetable garden on the grounds of the White House. Although there were quite a few critical comments about her efforts and the news media had a field day for several weeks, we would probably agree that her ideas were a lot more practical than many of us would like to admit. In fact, we might agree that this was an idea we should have thought of ourselves. We should have decided to plant a vegetable garden at our homes.
In spite of the media controversy, it seems that Mrs. Obama’s efforts and examples were to bring attention to the need for all of us to improve our health by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. Her efforts were intended to provide her children with an opportunity to learn the responsibility of caring for a garden and to learn more about where their foods come from.
You might argue that the White House staff and hired workers would do more to tend the garden than the two Obama children would ever do. But it is probably safe to say that the Obama children gained more from the experiences their mother provides to them than your children or grandchildren did, especially if you did not plant a garden for them to work in and to learn from.
The White House garden was intended to bring attention to the need to buy locally grown fruits and vegetables. The notion of “farm to fork” encourages consumers to purchase food items that are grown close to home to reduce the amount of fuels used to ship long distances.
This garden was also intended to bring attention to the need to explore a greater variety of food items. In addition to traditional foods, such as squash, tomatoes and corn, having one’s own garden provides a greater opportunity for fresh spices and unusual ethnic vegetables. It also provides an opportunity to explore more naturally grown or even organically grown fruits and vegetables.
Once the announcement was made about the White House vegetable garden, President Obama was quoted as saying, “One of the things we’re trying to do now is to figure out, can we get a little farmer’s market outside of the White House.”
It is happening. Check out: http://dcist.com/2009/09/michelle_obama_applies_for_farmers.php and you will see that Mrs. Obama has applied to the Department of Transportation to close off a section of a street across the street from the White House in order to make room for a farmers market.
If approval is given to close this street to traffic from 1 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays the Vermont Street Farmers Market will provide downtown residents, as well as the workers in many of the nearby office buildings, easy access to locally grown fruits and vegetables.
There are two very important questions to be answered: Will the Obama children be allowed to sell their surplus vegetables at the market, and if they do, will they be allowed to keep the money they earn?
And are there any farmers left near Washington, D.C., who would be interested in fighting the traffic into the inner city in order to sell their fruits and vegetables?
As the current season begins to wind down, our local vegetable farmers will begin making plans for the coming year. Due to the success of the downtown Lumberton farmers market this past year, many of them will increase their production and the variety of what they grow for the coming year.
The success of this past year indicates the potential for additional farmers to grow fruits and vegetables for this market. Most market days, the number of shoppers and the demand for fresh, high-quality vegetables was more than the current vendors could provide. This provides an opportunity not only for full-time vegetable farmers but also for part-time farmers looking for additional summer income and for young people with the right resources and parental support to earn extra money during the summer.
If you grow vegetables, consider this opportunity for the coming year. If you want to practice, gather up some of your best fruits, vegetables, and flowers and enter them in the county fair. Next year, you might be able to brag to your customers that you grew “blue ribbon” vegetables.
— Everett Davis is county cooperative extension director.